If you're someone who complains about point-and-click adventures being slow, plodding ordeals filled with uninteresting puzzles and boring characters, you might have to rethink your argument after playing Telltale Games' first foray into adult oriented adventure-gaming fare. The debut episode of Hector: Badge of Carnage--adorned with the snarky subtitle "We Negotiate With Terrorists"--is something else entirely. And whether or not you have the stomach for this demented detective tale depends on your threshold for often naughty and utterly warped humor. Fishing around inside a feces-ridden toilet with a used condom, parlaying favors from morbidly obese hookers, and peddling fake drugs to young rave partygoers are only a few of the many seedy tasks you must undertake in the name of justice. Gross situations and intermittent lewdness may be the norm, but it's the creative puzzles and memorable characters that make this adventure worthwhile.
Clappers Wreake is a foul city filled with an abundance of corruption and depravity. It's a great cartoonish setting for the game's crass tale to unravel. The city is home to its fair share of lunatics, and the story heats up as one of the local crazies embarks on an ill-conceived crusade to clean up the town--taking hostages and sniping the heads off of a dozen or so police negotiators all the while. You play as a washed-up detective named Hector who has been summoned from the vile bowels of the decrepit police station in a last-ditch attempt to resolve the situation without having all of the hostages smoked in one fell swoop. Of course, you have to find your pants first. Giving into the terrorist's demands for a cleaner city sends you on a three-fold mission to shut down the local porn shop, help a tourist trinket peddler in the junkie-filled park, and repair a dilapidated clock guarded by a shotgun-toting drunkard. A parade of shady characters await you in these colorful locales, and there's a lot of weird stuff you have to wade through to complete each of these goals.
Quite a few of the puzzles are sprawled out across multiple locations. You often pick up strange items that don't make any sense until you've spent a little more time poking around elsewhere in the city's unsettling nooks and crannies. That's not a bad thing because the game's different areas are diverse enough to make the back-and-forth travel pleasurable. While you still wind up clicking on everything with the mouse, combining and using items on hot spots, and working through insane dialogue trees for much of the game, the puzzles themselves are anything but typical, which is a big part of what keeps things interesting. Grab a gooey handful of free lube from the sex shop? It's useful somewhere. Find a blind hobo with some top-secret intel? However disgusting it may be, everyone has their price. And despite the edgy nature of the puzzles' subject matter, it's fun to think through the clever challenges you face. The difficulty curve is nicely balanced, and a multitiered help system offers partial or full solutions to various puzzles whenever you need it.
Even when you're not chasing down the solution to one of the game's freakish puzzles, clicking around the scenery to trigger Hector's commentary yields plenty of surprising nuggets. More than a few choice moments will elicit bouts of laughter (and perhaps a groan or two). Hector's gruff, sarcastic personality and less-than-charming inner dialogue also drive the story. He's oddly likeable, despite being rather gross at moments. The voice work throughout the episode--delivered almost entirely in thick British accents, no less--is hilarious. All of the dialogue is well written, and it capitalizes on every opportunity to throw a jaw-dropping curve ball at you. If you haven't guessed by now, this game is absolutely not for young folks or anyone easily offended. Racy comments abound, and some of the visual animations and settings push the envelope as well. That said, the hand-drawn cartoon art style's charm softens the nastiness a bit, keeping the overall tone of the game from being too unpleasant. There are moments when you might feel dirty for playing, but the experience is still heavily rooted in the gameplay rather than on delivering shock value alone.
Underneath its risque presentation, Hector: Badge of Carnage is a smart and satisfying puzzle adventure that pushes boundaries just far enough to be captivating without going too far over the edge. It's a clever, refreshing addition to the point-and-click genre. This first installment in a planned trilogy of episodes is a meaty helping that lasts about four or five solid hours of play time, assuming you don't lean too heavily on the hint system. It stands on its own as a great game, though the suspenseful conclusion teases some wild surprises to come.